T. S. Eliot's "La Figlia Che Piange" and the tradition of decadent aestheticism

Author: Budziak, Anna
Source document: Brno studies in English. 2014, vol. 40, iss. 2, pp. [27]-45
  • ISSN
    0524-6881 (print)
    1805-0867 (online)
License: Not specified license
In this essay, T. S. Eliot's "La Figlia Che Piange" – a modernist but also uniquely Romantic and Decadent lyric – is read in terms of its relationship with the tradition of British Decadent Aestheticism: viewed as both an invocation of Decadent sensibility and a critique of it. The Decadent strategies of Eliot's poem are explored with a focus shifting from grammar, to imagery, to the speaker's position, and to the interweaving of irony and emotion. These Decadent tactics are also discussed in the context of their parallels present in the works of Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, Austin Dobson, Max Beerbohm, Aubrey Beardsley and Ernest Dowson. Notably, with Pater, Dobson and Dowson, a direct inspiration, rather than a parallel, is suggested – a literary influence on the poet who still puzzles contemporary critics with the fact, recorded in Sitwell's memoir, of occasionally sporting green face powder which, as the famous green carnation, was seen as emblematically Decadent.
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